Friday 5 April 2013

French Foodies in Ireland: Claire-Marie, Aerial Hoop Dancer talks about Healthy Eating

Tell me about yourself 

I am from the West of France, I moved many times inside a big triangle from Paris to La Rochelle to Nantes. I originally came to Ireland for a year of study during which I met a great Irish guy. 

I have been living here for the past 6 years and we got married in 2010, I think my French cooking played a definite part in all this! I am passionate about food and health and how these two topics are linked together. I am really interested in understanding what goes on inside my body and how I can get the best out of it from good nutrition and sport! I feel sometimes I am part of the circus (not just with my aerial hoop dancing, which I teach as a hobby) but also that I’m walking on a wire to find the right balance between delicious food and a healthy body! 

Tell me about your healthy eating 

Well since I moved away from France, my eating habits completely changed. For a couple of different reasons; I did not take the time to look for the ingredients I used to cook with, and I went for easy and reachable options that led me to put on weight over a couple of years. In December 2011, I entered a pole dance competition and looking at myself in those pictures made me realised how dramatically changed I was as a result of this easily accessible food. I decided to take things into my own hands and started to read A LOT of different articles, asking myself what were my goals and priorities regarding my body, food and health. From there, I decided to go back to food that was making me happy, guilt-free and that provided me with great tastes and a variety of nutrients.

Typical lunch: sea bass and Mediterranean veg, garlic and herbs

For you, what is the definition of a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is something that makes you feel good and full of energy. It should refuel you, not just physically but emotionally too. I am a definite emotional eater; I need to feel a connection with my food. I need to enjoy the look of it (I love presentation and dressing plates and tables) and the taste and feel of it. Pleasure of the senses as we say! I stay away from things that make me feel bloated or sluggish by listening to my body. Since I have switched from a very monotonous diet to a diverse diet based on wholefood, I have never felt better. It is quite close to the so called “paleo” or “primal” diet. It is not actually a diet but more a lifestyle. I am looking after my body by giving it a wide range of nutrients and it is grateful for it! I eat a lot of different vegetables and meats and fish. I stay away from grains most of the time (I love almond or coconut flour) and switched from milk to almond milk (I love it!). I have occasional dairy products such as organic yogurt or French cheeses! I regularly eat all different kinds of nuts and seeds. I also love juicing; especially as a way to introduce new things into my diet like kale and other green leaves I would not necessarily be a big fan off. A little tip for juicing, make sure you use more veggies than fruits, otherwise you are just sending a sugar shot straight to your blood stream! My favourite green juice would be kale, cucumber, celery, a sweet apple and half of an organic lemon.

Green Juice, Nutty pumpkin spices oat balls

Is there a type of food you don't allow yourself to eat? 

I eat anything I believe is good for my body, but in reasonable quantities. I follow an 80/20 rules now, it has become my daily routine but it was closer to 95/5 when I was trying to lose weight. For most of the time, I eat whole unprocessed food, fresh and mainly organic products. Basically I decide wisely on my grocery list and on the food that I make for my everyday meals. When I am out with friends I make the best possible choice but will allow myself treats. This makes the whole healthy food paradigm realistic and fun rather than becoming an impediment to socialising around food. I do keep a very low alcohol intake though, I will only have one glass of wine once in a while or maybe a cocktail very occasionally and for soft drinks, I don't drink anything other than water and green tea (as well as my homemade juices for breakfasts).

Do you have any nutritional advice for people who would like to keep fit or lose weight? 

The best advice I could give is to read and learn about nutrition and to visualise what goals you have in mind and how other people achieved them. You will have to find a routine that works for you and that is sustainable in the long term through developing new habits. I read many articles on body mechanism, biology, sports and training. I also follow athletes online and fitness food bloggers. It is great to get inspiration from other people’s experiences. I am also active online through my Facebook page ( and Twitter @clairemarie87 where I post regular motivational posts, fitness tips and recipes. 

Claire-Marie's recipe for Date and Chocolate Cake

100g almonds
120g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
120g dried dates, pitted
3 egg whites
60g caster sugar
(Optional 1 spoon of honey)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Blend the almond and chocolate in a food processor until fine. Finely chop the dates. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until it dissolves. Fold in the almond and chocolate mixture, followed by the dates. Spoon the mixture into a prepared tin (layered with grease proof paper if you wish). Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool in the tin before carefully turning out onto a serving plate. This will keep well for up to 5 or 6 days wrapped in foil.
*All pictures courtesy of Claire-Marie 

Thanks Claire-Marie for answering my email interview!

Claire-Marie on Facebook here
Claire-Marie on Twitter @clairemarie87